Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The class of 2018 graduated with a record average of $29,200 in loans to help pay for a bachelor's degree, reports USA Today.

Why it matters: It was unusual to graduate with a high amount of debt a few decades ago, but "we have depressed ourselves into a mindset in which $30,000 in debt is acceptable for a degree," Mark Huelsman, an associate director at the left-leaning think tank Demos, told the newspaper.

The big picture: Some schools are trying to address affordability and debt concerns for the cost of an education, but students often use loan money to cover the cost of living expenses.

  • The University of Michigan and the University of Virginia introduced aid programs to help some students pay for classes.
  • New York offers free tuition at some public colleges for residents whose families earn up to $125,000.
  • New Mexico announced a free tuition plan this week for any state resident who attends a public school.

Yes, but: These plans, like many of the free college proposals floated by 2020 Democrats, are geared toward public institutions — meaning that those attending private universities across the country still have to shoulder the burden themselves.

  • Worth noting: The richest and most prestigious private universities often offer extensive financial aid packages of their own. For example, Harvard and Stanford both expect families that make up to $65,000 to contribute nothing — and Stanford offers no tuition charges for families making up to $125,000.

By the numbers:

  • Two out of three of last year's college grads owe more than 2017's.
  • Students who attended college in the Northeast have the highest average debt.
  • Students in Connecticut had the highest average at $38,650, and students in Utah had the lowest at $19,750.
  • "Black students and those from low-income backgrounds were more likely to have debt at graduation," per USA Today.

Go deeper: Debt-free college: Where the 2020 presidential candidates stand

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin:

Trump prepares to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court replacement

Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame University via Reuters

President Trump is preparing to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a favorite of both the social conservative base and Republican elected officials, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Barrett would push the already conservative court further and harder to the right, for decades to come, on the most important issues in American politics — from abortion to the limits of presidential power. If confirmed, she would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.